Last week, Maine legislators voted down three bills designed to make it harder to vote. Committee reports for LD 557, “An Act To Require Photographic Identification for the Purpose of Voting”; LD 253, “An Act To Strengthen Maine's Election Laws by Requiring Photographic Identification for the Purpose of Voting”; and LD 1083, “An Act To Create a Voter Identification System” had all received recommendations that they ought not to pass.
Voter ID laws are a method of voter suppression, plain and simple. By requiring forms of identification that are expensive and that not everyone has, these laws disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), over 21 million Americans (11 percent of the voting population) lack the identification needed to vote in states that require it. In many states, the accepted forms of identification are discriminatory in and of themselves. In Texas, for example, it’s possible to vote if you present a concealed weapons permit, but not a student ID. What’s worse, these laws are often passed as a way to combat “voter fraud,” which has been shown to be effectively nonexistent.
Maine is one of the most inclusive states in the country when it comes to voting rights. Voters can request absentee ballots without an excuse, we have several weeks of early voting, and we currently have the third-highest voter turnout rate in the country. We’re also the only state to use ranked-choice voting in federal and presidential elections.
“We should be proud of the work we have done in Maine to move us forward toward greater participation,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in testimony opposing the voter ID bills in April. “Implementing these bills would undermine the good, bipartisan work we have always done to protect Mainers’ voting rights.”
We couldn’t agree more. The best way to advance the values of Maine’s working families is to ensure unrestricted access to the ballot box. We applaud the lawmakers who chose to defend our democracy by voting against these regressive bills.